Will your nursery be kind on the purse strings?
“Having a baby in Hong Kong is so cheap,” said no one ever! Whilst we expect to pay top dollar for space, and even food and groceries at times, what we didn’t expect was to be charged a premium when decorating a room for our newborns. Anyone expecting will know from initial research that all manner of items (from wet wipes to designer cribs) come with a hefty mark-up, making this very special time an expensive one as well. However, there are some simple ways to cut costs while still creating a beautiful and bespoke nursery on a budget. Hong Kong mama, Sophie Knight, gives her insight into how it’s done.
Hong Kongers are nothing if not efficient when it comes to getting rid of anything taking up unnecessary space. So also with baby gear – if it’s not in use, it’s out. There are many excellent websites to find good-quality and barely-used nursery essentials such as Geo Expat and Asia Expat as well as fast-moving Facebook groups like HK Home Furniture and Appliances Sale.
I was lucky enough to bag a brand new, still-with-tags, Mamas & Papas moses basket for $800, a barely used Pottery Barn Emmerson crib ($500 rather than $5,990!) and a well-loved but in great condition Dutailier Glider nursing chair for $300 (usually $3,500). With new sheets and some dry cleaning, these items all look like new – plus there were no extortionate delivery fees or waiting times, I simply collected them within the day using an Uber XL!
Getting creative is half the fun of preparing for your new arrival. Putting a personal touch on the room they will call home is a great way of creating a unique space for you and your baby to enjoy. Rather than buying some purpose-built items often seen as “essential” for a nursery, look for alternatives that can be multi-purpose and used for years to come.
A great example is a changing table. A space to safely and comfortably change your baby is undoubtedly a must, but rather than buy a purpose-built stand with shelves underneath, consider adapting a standard chest of drawers. You’ll get far more storage space, it actually looks neater by keeping everything hidden and it can be used long after your little one has graduated past nappy days.
I bought the HEMNES drawers from Ikea and then painted them a dark navy to match our nursery theme, using zero-VOC paint from 513 Paint Shop in PMQ. I also changed the drawer handles for vintage brass knobs that I found in Cat Street market, giving them a whole new lease of life and taking them far from their Ikea roots! A fixed changing mat and some soft felt storage baskets created a practical changing surface, whilst drawer dividers have created an organised and accessible space for our little one’s already impressive wardrobe.
Your baby might take a while to appreciate the finesse of Monet or the vision of Picasso, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider adding visual stimulation to the walls of your nursery. Affordable art in simple frames is a cheap and quick way to create a theme, change the mood of a room and bring some personality to your baby’s space. However, it can be hard to strike a balance between baby-artwork and images you can also appreciate – and if you’re anything like me you’ll want both style and substance!
Take your hunt online for the best selection of affordable art. Some favourite sites include independent artists like Eleanor Bowman and Wonder & Rah who both create fun and stylish graphic prints that would be at home on nursery walls or in living room galleries. Postage and delivery is reasonable and fast and the artwork comes in standard sizes (A4, A5 etc.) to easily fit off-the-shelf frames such as this one from Ikea.
With the majority of residents renting in Hong Kong, there is a limit to the amount you want to do to your apartment. Spending time and money painting, for example, can often be outweighed by the need to change it back when you eventually move out. But the temptation to personalise your baby’s new bedroom can be overwhelming. Fear not, there are many temporary solutions to add colour and fun to your walls without the permanency of a paintbrush!
Wall decals are easy-to-use stickers that simply peel off when no longer wanted. Locally you can find some fun options in stores like Mother Court, Petit Bazaar and Slowood. Browsing online opens up a creative treasure trove allowing your imagination to run wild with sites like Etsy, Not on the High Street and Sticker Kid all offering a wide range of fun, trendy and non-committal wall options. I opted for these cute raindrop and lightning stickers, plus one feature wall using this removable wallpaper from Little Unicorn.
Hong Kong is full of wonderful textile markets, packed with easy to find fabric that can add colour and fun to your nursery without a hefty price tag. Try the Western Market in Sheung Wan for a slightly calmer experience, Li Yuen Street West for its central location and Sham Shui Po (Tai Nan and Ki Lung streets in particular) for endless rows of shops selling everything from leopard print and polka dots, to jungle themes and chevron stripes.
If you’re looking for something a little quicker and off-the-shelf, Ikea has these bold-striped carnival-style window-seat cushions (perfect for many of Hong Kong’s wide window ledges). Small rugs can add a pop of colour and double up to minimise the noise of your footsteps when frequently checking in on your sleeping beauty! These hallway runners are just $130 but are perfect for placing beside your crib or changing table.
You’ll have already bought some gorgeous blankets and muslins for your bundle of joy so don’t hide them away in drawers, instead make a feature out of them by installing a simple towel rail to hang them over. A bamboo ladder also works for a quick and quirky fix, or small hooks under any existing shelves to hang some lightweight muslins from. These options are practical and create a colourful focal point for the room at little extra cost.